From the first moment that we all sat down with Chef Alan Wong for the celebratory lunch (one of the most delicious meals of my life, by the way) through the end of the evening -- there was a palpable excitement in the air, all due to the amazing ingredients, the spectacular locale, and the sight of four motivated, talented individuals cooking in a beautiful outdoor kitchen, for everyone to see. I really got a kick from seeing how each of the contestants interpreted the challenge -- their choices spoke volumes about them as chefs.
Ilan decided to mix Hawaiian techniques with Spanish flavors. Elia was aiming for a fusion of Mediterranean and Hawaiian flavors. Sam seemed bent on modernizing the Hawaiian dishes with a lighter, sophisticated touch, and Marcel chose to deconstruct the Hawaiian dishes altogether, and apply his molecular gastronomy to recreating them in his own, unique, wacky Scientist way. I strolled the kitchen a number of times and, aside from the minor tension that comes from chefs working busily in the same space with shared equipment, I didn't notice anything awry. I was practically giddy -- I could see how carefully Sam, Ilan, Elia and Marcel had prepared in the two months since our initial shoot. They had worked on a variety of ideas, researched Hawaiian cuisine, and carefully selected and brought along some of the ingredients they had grown to rely upon as chefs. Honestly, it felt as though it was finally about the food.